The Atlantic hurricane season is two months away, with the official start arriving on June 1, but there is a high chance for a preseason storm to develop and that another active tropical season is expected.
The past two hurricane seasons were extraordinarily active, as meteorologists predicted, with the historic 2020 season reaching unprecedented levels and setting a new record for the number of named storms with 30. The 2021 tropical year was almost as prolific with 21 named storms, making it the third most active on record in terms of named systems. It also forced meteorologists to use the entirety of the designated storm name list for the second straight season.
Of course, the seasons prior to 2020 and 2021 certainly weren’t underachievers, with the devastating trio of major hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — striking over a one-month stretch in 2017, and hurricanes Florence and Michael blasting parts of the Southeast in 2018. In fact, the last season with a below-normal number of named storms was 2015
So what can residents living in hurricane-prone areas of the United States expect in 2022? More of the same, unfortunately.
We are forecasting 16-20 named storms and six to eight hurricanes — four of which will be Category 3 or higher with winds exceeding 111 mph or higher. An average season normally has 14 named storms, around seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
Residents living along the U.S. coastline and in the Caribbean should be prepared for “an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall” near their homes, researchers said.
Our forecast of 16-20 named storms is higher than the 30-year average of 14 per year, while the projection of six to eight hurricanes is about in line with the normal of seven. It’s also nearly identical to how 2021 played out. Last year, the 21 named storms included seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes. Eight of those storms made a direct impact on the U.S. About four to six direct impacts are predicted for 2022.
La Niña once again expected to play a key role
The climatological phenomenon known as La Niña can help shape weather patterns worldwide, and in particular, play a major factor in how active a hurricane season can become.
La Niña is part of a three-pronged climatological pattern known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation [ENSO], which is a short-term climate fluctuation that is determined by the warming or cooling of the waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
When sea-surface temperatures are anomalously warm in this part of the Pacific and stay that way over a period of 12-18 months, climate experts say an El Niño phase is underway. When the reverse is true, and water temperatures are lower than average, a La Niña phase is declared. The third phase, ENSO-neutral, is when water temperatures are around average.
How people should prepared for hurricanes:
1. Prepare an evacuation plan. Beforehand, decide where you’ll go, map the route and create a family communication plan for what to do if family members get separated and can’t reach one another.
2. Have a go-kit ready. Some items to include are spare car keys, cash (don’t count on ATMs working), a two-week supply of medications, phone chargers, hygiene items (toilet paper, hand sanitizer, menstrual products, diapers), important documents (insurance policies, proof of homeownership, lease agreement), a battery-operated emergency radio, a flashlight, batteries and rain gear.
4. If your resources are tight, be creative and seek help now to be ready. For example, if you don’t have transportation, register beforehand with your local government so authorities know you’ll need help evacuating.
5. Take the threat seriously. Willis says climate change has made the threat of a natural disaster more significant: Storms are becoming larger and more powerful and are creating more damage.